Following the recent heavy snow in Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, there emerged a tragic yet heartwarming tale that confirmed the depths of human love, after a father gave his life to protect his daughter when both became stranded during a blizzard.
The article below not only describes the heroic actions of the devoted father, but also reports further tragedies that occurred during the severe weather, reminding netizens of the fearsome power of nature, and also of the difficulties of life in the more remote areas of the Japanese archipelago. It has been widely discussed online, with netizens praising the man’s selfless sacrifice to save his beloved daughter, and mourning with the Hokkaido communities who lost their loved ones during the blizzard.
From Yahoo! Japan:
‘Severe Blizzard’: Father Gives Life to Protect Daughter…Held Her for Ten Hours with Winds Howling at his Back
A severe blizzard struck Hokkaido. A father who abandoned his car and started walking, was caught in a violent snow storm, with just one person to protect, he hugged his daughter for ten hours in the snow, losing his life as a result. A different family who decided to remain in their car died from exhaust fumes. Yet again the residents of the town experience the ferocious power of nature firsthand.
At just past 7am on March 3, in front of a livestock warehouse in Yuubetsu, Hokkaido Prefectural Police came across a black jacket in the snow. “Are you okay?” an officer yelled. As they cleared the snow, they found Yuubestu resident fisherman Mikio Okada (53) lying face down in the snow with both of his arms around 9 year-old Akane. Dressed in ski gear, Akane was found crying and quivering from the cold. It is thought that Mr. Okada put his back to the wind coming in from the north, although Akane had hypothermia she managed to escape death, but Mr. Okada was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital having froze to death.
According to the Hokkaido Prefectural Police, Mr. Okada had gone with Akane to a friend’s house, but on the same day at 4pm, he phoned from his cell phone to say: “The car is stuck in the snow and can’t move. I’m leaving the car and coming by foot.” After that call, he wasn’t able to be contacted again. At around 9:30 the car was discovered stuck in a deep bank of snow at the roadside around 1.5 kilometres from the house. It was around 300m from there that they were found. There was a house 50 meters beyond the warehouse, but because the blizzard was so severe, they couldn’t have seen it.
According to a friend, two years previously Mr. Okada’s wife had passed away, so just he and Akane lived together. A man from the neighbourhood (51) said: “He was her only daughter, so he was very affectionate. He wanted to protect her with all his heart.” Another acquaintance said that while in hospital, Akane repeatedly asked: “How is my father?”.
Kouji Kumotsu (57) from the Yuubetsu Fishing Co-operative said: “Mr. Okada was always positive about participating in training classes, he was the centre of the fishing co-operative. Mr. Kumotsu himself was caught in the snow two days before at around 1:30pm, abandoning his car in the snow and relying only on the flickering lights of his car navigation system was able to seek help a house located around 300m away. “I have lived here for over fifty years, but this is the first time I have seen a storm like this,” he said stiffly.
◇ Their Car Stranded In a Snow Drift, Mother and Three Children Unable to Be Rescued
In Nakashibetsu in Hokkaido, a woman and her three children died in their car which had been buried in snow. The rescue services were unable to reach them because of the severity of the weather. The journey to where her car was located would usually take just fifteen minutes, but even with the assistance of a snow-plough, it took the rescue services around two hours. “We have never experienced a storm like this. Our field of vision was limited to a few centimetres. There was just nothing that could be done,” the team members said sorrowfully.
“The car is stuck in a snowbank and can’t move.” Kazuyo Miyashita (40) rang a friend on March 2 at around 5:40pm. He then asked a friend who owned a tractor for help. They found the four unconscious in the car, but were only able to contact the fire service at around 7:10pm. 18 firefighters from Nakashibetsu travelled to the scene in five fire engines and ambulances, but the roads were blocked with snow and they could not get through. They hurriedly arranged for a snow-plough to meet them at the scene.
Winds in the area picked up to typhoon-strength winds, the roads were covered in about 2-3 metres of snow. According to the rescue workers who met with the fire services, “Everything in front of us was pure white, we couldn’t even see the flashing lights on the emergency vehicles. This area sees a lot of snow, but I have never experienced anything to this extent, so I felt like this was the second disaster we were going to be caught up in.”
There were able to get to the site two hours after at around 9:10 in the evening. The car was buried in the snow to the extent that the doors and roof were just about visible. The friend who had found the car was already too late. The team members used shovels to excavate the snow, but the four people inside the car had already died from cardiopulmonary arrest.
The three children all attended schools in the neighbourhood, at the time of the accident, the mother Kazuyo was taking her son Daiki (11) to pick up her two daughters who were in the neighbourhood, they were in the middle of returning home. Daiki had only just taken up his role as president of the elementary school council in Mataochi elementary school, which only has 8 students and will close at the end of April.
A man from the Mataochi Elementary School PTA (42) received a phone call from Ms. Miyashita and explained: “She said on the phone that her head hurt, so I advised her to ventilate the car. If only she had turned off the engine at that point,” his voice trailed off.
Comments from Ceron.jp:
My chest is tight, words won’t come out… Rather than let it end like this, it would be good if some counter-measures were put into place
I was born and raised in Okinawa so I’ve never really seen snow, but this is really sad. I hope they will support Akane-chan. The depth of her father’s love makes me want to cry.
Makes me cry. Particularly when I think of the daughter.
Even though I don’t know the daughter, it’s still very sad… It’s gonna be tough on her
This is just too sad…
To give his life for his beloved daughter… Holding her for 10 hours with his back to the wind. As a parent with children, I’m crying at this sad, heartbreaking news. Giving one’s life and holding his child for 10 hours, and protecting his daughter no matter how how tough it was for him. I hope his soul rests in peace with all my heart.
As a person with a daughter this is heartbreaking.
This is such an unimaginable horror. Instant death would have been better than 10 hours.
I would like them to make a statue and a shrine.
This morning at work (well actually yesterday morning), everybody cried when we spoke about this story. A white demon. Whiteouts are scary. They really are.
This is unbearable. May his soul rest in peace.
The daughter he left behind. I hope she stays strong.
May they rest in peace. I’m overwhelmed…
I wanna be like this guy
I feel a love that knows no bounds
Can’t stop crying…
May their souls rest in peace. Again we’ve realised, it doesn’t matter how much civilisation progresses, we can’t win against nature.
I want this kind of father. I also want his daughter to stay strong. May he rest in peace.
It doesn’t matter how many times I hear the story about the father and his daughter, my heart aches.
I cried. May they rest in peace.
This is too sad.
At any rate, this tragedy is so heartbreaking… It was great that the daughter was saved, but….
Damn. It’s so sad, I cried.